Insights are a hot word in sales today.  Rightly so.  Insights turn light bulbs on.  They lead to new solutions.  They create an urgency for change by helping customers rethink the status quo and look into the future.   But what exactly are insights, how do you develop them, how do you link them to solutions, and most important, how do you communicate them?

Insights: A Definition
An insight is just that—a sight from within. It is a new thought, perspective, or way to look at a problem that triggers a deeper understanding and leads to a solution.  An insight serves as a bridge that connects two points.  It can develop from an observation. For example, on a small scale, a salesperson noticed that his customer was shipping multiple orders to a major customer throughout the day from several divisions.  He calculated the cost and savings the customer could realize by consolidating all its shipping at the end of the day.  His observation led to an insight that saved his customer thousands of dollars a week.  And while the amount was not significant to the big picture, it supported the corporate goal to trim expenses.  More importantly, it enhanced the customer’s perception of the salesperson and resulted in his becoming the customer’s primary supplier.

Developing Insights
So how can salespeople develop insights? Above all, they need to be open to them. Certainly knowledge, experience, research, thought leadership, observation, and creativity spark insights but there is also an element of intuition and mystery.  Insights aren’t usually developed on the spot.  They demand preparation, curiosity, and creativity.  Innovative organizations help their sales forces become insight-ready by providing sales teams with insight sharing and training that supports leveraging insights.  But even with that salespeople must also conduct their own research, consult thought leaders inside and outside their organizations, glean ideas from other clients, and observe their customers.

Linking Insights to Solutions
One insight can lead to multiple solutions or ideas.  In the example above the solution was to consolidate shipments.  Additional solutions flowing from the insight might have been to offer the customer a discount for weekly shipments or to change the paper parts of the shipments from paper to electronic.

Communicating Insights
How you can share insights:

  • Briefly summary of the priority business challenge
  • Share the relevant insight with your customer
  • Support with data, research to validate
  • Provide an example with ROI/ success story
  • Probe for customer’s experience/perception

Sharing the insight is not the new selling.  It is just the start.  If a collaborative vs. didactic approach is the goal, ask for your customer’s perception or experience about the insight you have shared.  The insight not only demonstrates to your customer that you know his or her world.  It is a platform for asking smarter, informed questions and building the solution together.

Knowledge has become a commodity but insights now have an even higher value. The first step is developing them. Then comes the challenge of linking them to solutions. Finally, it’s important to share insights in a way that helps customers be receptive to rethinking the status quo and collaborate with you to develop and act on the solution.

Your next insight is just ahead. Are you ready to develop, link, and communicate it? Your next sale may depend on it.